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2 USF Thai Students Believed Killed In California Crash

Aug 10, 2017

Authorities in California say they're struggling to recover two bodies from a car that crashed down a cliff two weeks ago and landed in the middle of a raging river.

Thailand's Consulate in Los Angeles says it believes the bodies belong to two Thai students who attend the University of South Florida and were vacationing in California.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday said they're working with Thai authorities.

Officials say the car went off the road 75 miles east of Fresno in the steep Sierra Nevada mountains. It crashed 500 feet below into the Kings River, swollen with snowmelt.

Fresno Sheriff's photos show the car apparently came to rest precariously on a large rock in the middle of the river. High, rough waters and bad weather have stalled recovery efforts.

The car's occupants have not been formally identified, but officials at the Thailand Foreign Ministry say 24 year old Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit and 28 year old Bhakapon Chairattanasongporn, also known as "Golf," have been missing since late July.

USF officials say both were registered for classes this fall, with Chairattanasongporn pursuing a masters' in industrial engineering, while Saengsuiryarit was classified as a non-degree seeking student.

Engineering teacher's assistant Vignesh Subramanian remembered Chairattanasongporn as a very conscientious learner.

"He's one of the students who, after writing the exam, he'd come during the office hours and he'd review the paper," he told WUSF. "And he's very respectufl to others, the way he'd speak, he was very polite and calm."

Officials at the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles say the students' relatives have traveled to California, where they're urging authorities to retrieve the bodies.

Consulate officials are offering to send their own team to help recover the bodies. They've also threatened to hold protests at the scene this weekend if that doesn't happen soon.